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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tea Party Protesters Dispute Reports of Slurs, Spitting Against Dem Lawmakers

A man was arrested for spitting on a congressman. No, he was let go.

Protesters shouted the "n-word" at black lawmakers. Witnesses say it never happened.

A gay congressman was called a slur. Yet he was accused of swearing at someone in the crowd before that.

These are the conflicting claims that have emerged from the series of tense encounters lawmakers say they endured with Tea Party protesters on Capitol Hill Saturday, in the final raucous hours before Congress approved the health care reform bill.

Claims that the protesters hurled anti-gay and racist epithets at them tore through the blogosphere in the run-up to the vote and were used to decry the protests, but Tea Party supporters are challenging those accounts, saying they didn't hear them, or at least that those responsible were not part of the Tea Party protest.

"Never did I hear any type of racial slur," said William Owens, a black Tea Party activist from Nevada who joined in the D.C. protests Saturday.

Here's what is known about Saturday's run-ins:

Several black lawmakers say that as they were walking by protesters on their way to a procedural vote on Capitol Hill, a group of demonstrators shouted at them and called them the n-word.

"They were just shouting, harassing," Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a legend of the civil rights movement, said.

In addition, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a black congressman from Missouri, said he was spit on by someone in the crowd who was later detained.

Plus someone shouted a gay slur at Frank in the hallway of a House office building.

"Today's protests against health insurance reform saw a rash of despicable, inflammatory behavior," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said.

Now here's where those accounts are called into question:

Though the claims of racist epithets against Lewis and other congressmen drew a lot of media attention, witnesses say they never heard such language and YouTube videos have surfaced that show protesters booing and shouting "Kill the Bill" but not shouting the n-word.

Kay Fischer, a protester from North Carolina, said she was watching the black lawmakers walk by and, like Owens, heard nothing of the sort. (CONTINUES HERE)

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